In Texas, a person can release a lien on real property by fully repaying the money to the party that holds the lien on the property. This party may be an individual or a company, such as a lender, like a bank or credit union.
A lien holder (person or entity that holds a lien) can also release the lien on their own initiative. A lien holder is required to effect a release of lien when they have been fully paid.
Mortgage Companies and Liens
A mortgage lien, or deed of trust, is the mortgage holder’s lien on the property. A creditor in Texas, including the holder of a mortgage, is not required by law to release a debt that is paid in full.
If a creditor does not release such a debt within 60 days of receiving full payment, a representative of a title insurance company can record an affidavit (written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation) that releases the lien described in the affidavit.
The suggested form for the affidavit can be found in Texas Property Code Section 12.017. Typically, a mortgage company sends a release of lien within 30 to 90 days.
Mortgage Servicers and Payments
A mortgage servicer receives payments from the property owner on behalf of the entity that provided the mortgage.
If a property owner is sending payments to the mortgage servicer, and the money is not going through to the lender, the property owner should write a letter to the servicer requesting an explanation. The property owner should also give notice to their lender regarding the concern.
When a property owner is behind on their payments, the mortgage contract may require the servicer to contact the property owner by phone, in person and/or in writing. The mortgage servicer should explain whether the property owner is eligible for a repayment plan or loan modification. A property owner who is at risk of foreclosure should talk to an attorney.
When a Lien Expires
A mortgage lien remains valid on a property until the property owner fully repays the debt. A mortgage holder, like a bank, can renew a lien before it expires.
A judgment lien is a court ruling that gives a creditor the right to take possession of a debtor’s property if the debtor does not fulfill their contractual obligations. In Texas, a judgment lien expires after 10 years. A federal tax lien also expires after 10 years.
Mechanics’ Lien Claims
According to Texas Property Code Section 53.021, a party who improves real property, such as a house or the land on which it sits, is entitled to file for a mechanic’s lien if they are not paid. The property owner can get the lien released by paying the party for their work.
A lien release is not binding unless the claimant, such as the subcontractor working on the property, signs and delivers a waiver and release. When a property owner gets a general release from their contractor, this is not a guarantee that another claimant such as a subcontractor or supplier will be paid by the contractor.
Types of Waiver and Release
Four typical waiver and release forms are:
- Conditional waiver and release upon progress payment: The term conditional means the waiver and release is only effective if the claimant is paid. Progress payment or installment payment is a method of billing that involves spreading the payments out over a certain period.
- Unconditional waiver and release upon progress payment: Claimant must sign a waiver and release to receive a progress payment. The claimant states in the waiver that they have received the progress payment.
- Conditional waiver and release upon final payment.
- Unconditional waiver and release upon final payment.
A conditional release is usually binding only if there is proof that the claimant has been paid. Evidence of payment can be the claimant’s signature endorsement on check paid by the bank that issued the check, or a written acknowledgment of payment provided by the claimant.
A disclaimer is a statement that specifies the rights that can be enforced against certain parties who have entered into a contract. In a waiver and release, a disclaimer can show that a contractor or other claimant has waived, discharged and released all claims, liens and rights to liens regarding a specified project, such as the repair of a certain home.
Fees for Lien Documents
A county charges a fee to record a lien or for documents showing proof of a lien or release of a lien. Fees vary according to the county. In Hamilton County, fees are:
- $26 for first page of federal tax lien or release of federal tax lien; $4 for each additional page.
- $16 for proof of state tax lien or release of state tax lien.
- $26 to record first page of mechanic’s lien; $4 for each additional page.
Remove a Vehicle Lien in Texas
A party can remove a lien on a vehicle by visiting their local county tax office. The title fee is $28 or $33, depending on the county of the person’s residence. The person must pay the fee at the time they file the application. A vehicle lien holder has 10 days after they receive payment to release the lien.
If the lien was recorded on a paper title, the lien holder mails the title to the vehicle owner. Removing a lien recorded on a paper title requires:
- Vehicle title.
- Release of lien letter and/or other notifications from lien holder currently named on the vehicle title.
- Completed Application for Texas Title and/or Registration (Form 130-U).
If the lien was recorded electronically, the lien holder coordinates with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to remove the lien from the DMV’s records. No action is required on the part of the vehicle owner. The lien holder will notify the vehicle owner that the lien has been removed.
- Hamilton County, Texas: Hamilton County Clerk's Fee
- Texas Property Code: Title 5 Exempt Property and Liens, Chapter 53 Mechanic's, Contractor's or Materialman's Lien
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles: Add/remove a Lien on a Vehicle
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles: Application for Texas Title and/or Registration
- Texas Property Code: Title 3 Public records, Chapter 12 Recording of Instruments
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.